Fabric is expensive. Once upon a time, Hobby Lobby offered a coupon in its weekly ad that allowed an extra percentage off any purchase, including fabrics. But the coupon campaign has ended. Still, Hobby Lobby often offers cotton fabrics at a percentage off. Cotton fabrics are particularly popular at Hobby Lobby and other fabric stores because they can be used for so many projects — apparel, quilting, home sewing projects, and fabric crafts of all kinds.
With this popularity comes the opportunity to price for the demand. Did you know there are between 9 and 11 million quilters in the United States alone? The number was derived from a “Quilting in America” survey conducted by F+W Media in 2020.
The survey has followed the quilting industry since 2000 and has shown a steady increase over time. Starting as a $1.8 billion industry in 2000, the quilting industry was up to $4.2 billion in 2020. You can read more about the average quilter here. Maybe the average quilter spends more because cotton fabrics cost more.
But quilters and all sewing enthusiasts generally are the frugal type who look for good deals on fabrics. It takes some effort, but there are ways to find places to buy cheap cotton fabric by the yard. Here are a few tips:
Where to Buy Cheap Cotton Fabric By the Yard
1. Sign Up For Notifications From Online Fabric Stores
As annoying as those emails may be, you might lose out on the opportunity for cheap fabric yardage if you don’t sign up for notifications. Be sure to read the weekly circulars they send to you. That’s where you can find your discounted fabric options at a glance.
I really miss the Hobby Lobby coupon. There’s a store in a nearby town that I often frequented when I had that coupon in hand. The Joann fabric store is much farther away, but if you have a Joann store in your community (or nearby), they do usually offer coupons that can be used to discount cotton fabrics. I order from Joann online and appreciate the coupon savings for discounted shipping charges. In some instances, if I order a certain dollar amount, I qualify for free shipping.
2. Check Area Walmart Stores
My local Walmart mostly sells precut cotton fabric, but a few bolts of yardage are still stocked. In my area, Walmart starting making the shift away from full-fledged fabric departments a few years ago. The problem now is that many of the associates are not trained to work specifically with fabric. They may not straighten the edges before cutting it or may cut your fabric crooked. Some people were not raised around a real fabric store and it shows. Even so, it may be worth the risk for the savings you can find at Walmart. Plus, if you have a friend or relative who works at Walmart, ask them to buy it for you then reimburse them. They’ll get a 10 percent discount on the purchase, which will ultimately save you money on the cotton fabric yardage they buy for you.
3. Look at Remnants In Sewing Machine Stores
The cotton fabrics sold in sewing machine stores tend to be high-end and equally high-priced. But, take a look at their remnants. You can find some remnants of a yard or two sometimes bundled for sale. Also, shop at the end of a season to get discounts on the out-going styles.
4. Visit Your Local Thrift Store
Two thrift stores in my area routinely carry cotton fabric yardage. If you buy from a thrift store, check out the cotton fabric thoroughly before buying it. Unfold a section of fabric and hold it up to the light. Is it solid? Does it look too thin? Are there stains or tears in it? Cotton fabric will rot if it has been stored improperly for long periods of time. In addition to fabric, thrift stores are also great for finding old vintage sewing patterns.
5.Think Outside The Box
Depending on what you want to use the cotton fabric for, you may have other fabric options. Can it be made from a flat sheet? If so, look for sales on those. Most bedding goes on sale in January for the “white sales” and then again in August for back-to-school dorm needs. The great thing about using flat sheets for fabric is that you can also find them in lots of cute prints and patterns. In our house, we rarely use the top sheet anymore, opting instead to use the fitted sheet along with light weight blankets and a quilt when needed. So, one of our top sheets was used to make a number of masks when the pandemic began and trips to the fabric store were out of the question.
6. Shop Estate Sales
If you see an estate sale advertised with any sewing notions or machinery mentioned in the description, give it a visit. There just may be cotton fabrics there to add to your stash. The problem is that you may not know the age of the fabric. As you would do if shopping thrift stores for fabrics, you need to do the same tests at estate sales. If the fabric looks thin, has tears or signs of mold, or lots of discoloration, it will not be a good bargain no matter how cheap the cotton fabric is.
7. Join a Sewing Club
Sewing clubs are great for a number of reasons — they offer a community of like-minded people a way to meet and make friends, they usually make a project, and they sometimes have fabric exchanges. What can be cheaper than free? If your fabric club does not already have an exchange, organize one for the group yourself. For every yard of fabric (or whatever measurement you choose), allow them to select an equal amount from the collection donated for the swap. Having a fabric swap is a lot of fun. You can even turn it into a fundraiser for the group and allow non-club members to attend for a fee or allow them to purchase the fabric at a low cost.